Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brett Whiteley's starry night


Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's starry night, oil on canvas, 120x270cm.

My final work in the Brett Whiteley series, and the final work towards to Masters degree, is this triptych celebrating Brett Whiteley's  apotheosis ...  his ascension into Australia's cultural firmament - a star at last.

The 270x120 cm work consists of three 90x120cm panels:
Brett Whiteley departs Thirroul
Peter Pan over Lavender Bay
Brett Whiteley illumines our firmament
While each panel is intended to work as a self-contained painting, the work was envisaged as the three placed together to form a complete narrative.

To date my Brett Whiteley series has consisted of numerous works, among others, that explored his vulnerability, isolation and depression so I wanted to finish with this more joyous celebration of his achievement.

The triptych references Vincent's painting Starry night (HERE). I felt this was a fitting motif given that Whiteley worshiped Vincent. He was painting portraits of Vincent in the early 1970's and in 1983 had his his exhibition 'Another way of looking at Vincent Van Gogh' hung by the Gallery of NSW. Brett's tribute received a hostile reception from the critics. One mocked that Brett has been struggling to become Vincent for the past fifteen years. So i thought it only a reasonable gift to Brett to allow him to ascend at last into Vincent's starry heavens.

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley departs Thirroul, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

This first panel depicts Brett's spirit departing the hotel in Thirroul where he died. He heads upward, out over the East coast of NSW. He seems to be entering a portal on the right of the painting.

Harry Kent, Peter Pan over Lavender Bay, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

That portal turns out to be the window from his painting, Interior with time past (HERE) with its window of his home looking out over Lavender Bay on Sydney Harbour. And so i depicted Brett's spirit, Brett the eternal boy Peter Pan, flying past outside under the Southern Cross (this is my Oz night sky, not Vincent's French one), sailing over the Opera House sails that reference his painting Opera House (HERE).

Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley illumines our firmament, oil on canvas, 90x120cm.

In the third panel he takes his place in the pantheon of stars twinkling down onto the Australian cultural landscape, down on his home town of Sydney and the bridge that used to draw and paint so often, down on those savage critics whose names are already forgotten, and down on the young generations energised by just discovering his work for the first time. This is Brett at his zenith, Harlequin funster and mystic, arms raised in haunting and blessing.

And so, gentle viewer, we arrive at the end of this my Brett Whiteley meditations, and indeed, the end of my Masters research Project. In the next couple of posts I will be reporting on the assessment and giving some thought on where to next with this blog, if anywhere. Thank you one and all for sticking with me through this journey.



  1. ...And what a ride it has been! You've made me a fan too...I am glad he was here and that he left his mark and you've put him into a Van Gogh. A hundred sour critics can't take away his legacy and thanks to you, I know about him. :) Great job. Your work is every bit as unique and remarkable as his.

    1. You've been so lovely and supportive during my ride, Celeste. So kind in your comments. Thanks for all the interest youve shown in my work.

  2. Harry, what can I say but, "Bravo!" You have given us a rare glimpse into your own interior as you worked through this series and I've certainly enjoyed every single peek! I do hope you continue to blog and share what comes next for you.

    1. Thank you Rhonda. You are such a tonic. Thanks for sticking with me through some fairly obtruse material. As to where this blog goes next, is something i'm giving a fair amount of thought to. More on that later.

  3. Beautiful Harry. I love that you set him free soaring like the Seagull Over Lavender Bay. The contrast of colour over darkness is fantastic giving the painting an uplifting feeling. You used so many references to his work and life. I'm sure he is smiling down that someone gets him.

    Wishing you well on your assessment!

    1. Glad you like the work, Elizabeth. Though it doesn't translate well into photos. One needs to be in front of the substantial area of canvas to get a sense of soaring expanse.

      Yes, i hope he likes what what ive been doing (i suspect many collectors of his work and his inner circle would hate it, loz - it's right there among his when one googles Brett Whiteley images!).

  4. You didn't just end with a joyous painting--it makes me FEEL joy (and that's a rare occurrence).

    I feel that Brett Whitely--and maybe you--are free. I'm glad I could follow.

    1. Hallie, what a lovely thing to say! I'm so pleased it communicates something of joyous liberation. And yes, i sure feel liberated now that the demands of studies have come to an end.

      My exhibition is being examined by three examiners even as i type. In an hour's time it will all be over and i'll be joining fellow students and staff at the gallery for drinkies.

      Then, just the wait for my results (gulp).

  5. Hellou Mr Harry: This composition was incredible!!!
    The figure ,got a very nice appearence !!!
    I liked how you painted the sky!,
    reminds us of the sky of "Vincent"!!
    Take this opportunity to congratulate you on your painting exhibition!
    Happy new year 2013
    Big hug